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School lunchesToday’s lunch links theme is: “Important subjects you can’t believe you didn’t already more about.”

Subject #1 is the the latest worrisome scoop on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. For those of you who didn’t make our September Crucial Conversation on the topic, the TPP is a secretly-negotiated trade deal to empower large corporations that many think will be much worse than NAFTA for the American public. Now, today, to continue the good news, the folks at WikiLeaks have released the secret text for the Intellectual Property Rights Chapter of the proposed treaty and spelled out numerous concerns about human rights that it may pose.

Subject #2 is a little less momentous, but might well impact the lives of folks you know in the near term; it concerns the already well-down-the-road plans to completely overhaul the venerable GED test. As the NC Justice Center’s Sabine Schoenbach reports this morning in this new policy brief, the changes will be significant — a new format, new computerization and higher fees to name three — and could leave a lot of North Carolinians behind absent thoughtful action.

Subject #3 is one you probably could’ve guessed at, but about which it’s still good to be reminded — namely, the amazing mythology about the supposed benefits of the conservative “education reform” agenda. Read More

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From the good folks at the Farmworker Advocacy Network:

FarmworkersFarmworkers’ Day of the Dead celebration calls for new life in labor issues
Remembering the dead, holiday highlights workers’ plight, lax state protections

RALEIGH, NC – Gathering this Saturday to remember fallen field and poultry workers, North Carolina farmworkers and human rights advocates are set to observe the Day of the Dead in light of current labor hardships. Workers and members of the Farmworker Advocacy Network will gather after El Centro restaurant’s Day of the Dead 5K Run/Walk in downtown Raleigh in honor of the holiday, in which friends and families assemble to celebrate lost loved ones. This year advocates will gather around a traditional Day of the Dead altar at El Centro at 11 a.m. to remember farmworkers who died on the job in North Carolina, including nine children over the last decade. Read More

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Living wageThe fallout from the destructive 2013 session of the North Carolina General Assembly continues to settle out across the state policy landscape.

As you will recall, during the waning days of the session, lawmakers enacted (and Governor McCrory approved) a new restriction on the ability of cities and counties to enter into contracts on their own terms. Last night, in response to the new law, Durham County Commissioners retracted part of the county’s forward-looking living wage ordinance.

The County Commissioners expressed regret about their action, which was in response to HB 74, signed into law by Gov. McCrory on August 23. The so-called “regulatory reform” law, among many other things,  Read More

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Here’s a story that’s been around for a while but gotten far too little attention. The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to loosen regulatory oversight over the poultry processing industry — an industry that has long posed grave safety problems for both workers and the consuming public. If you doubt this, refresh your memory by perusing the Charlotte Observer’s award-winning 2008 series on the industry: “The Cruelest Cuts.”

Fortunately, experts and advocates are pushing back. As the New York Times reported earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office has issued a report blasting the USDA proposal (which would also allow faster line speeds for workers to contend with):

“The Agriculture Department’s plan to change its poultry inspection procedures relied on incomplete and antiquated data, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office released on Wednesday.

The new rules will allow workers at plants, rather than agency inspectors, to examine birds on processing lines for blemishes or feces. Read More

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Lori WallachDon’t miss out on next Thursday’s very important NC Policy Watch Crucial Conversation lunch: Worse than NAFTA? Lori Wallach discusses the “Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Featuring Lori Wallach, Director of the Global Trade Watch Division at the national advocacy group Public Citizen.
Co-sponsored by AFL-CIO of North CarolinaWitness for Peace and Balance & Advocacy in Journalism.

Click here to register.

Few American states have experienced the devastating impact of global “free” trade more directly and painfully than North Carolina. Our shuttered manufacturing plants and record unemployment rates both serve as powerful daily reminders of the lasting impact of NAFTA, CAFTA and other alphabet soup trade deals negotiated by far-off politicians and corporate giants.

Now, amazingly enough, yet another such trade agreement is being negotiated in secret, and it could be the worst one yet. As you read this, trade officials from the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim nations are negotiating something called the Trans-Pacific Partnership in hopes of reaching agreement this fall.

Lori Wallach thinks this is a big mistake. Read More